Thursday, November 5, 2009


I've only finished reading the first two chapters of the book, yet, the main idea that I feel that Fussell is trying to hammer home is the United States naive attitude and view about the war. Most felt here in the States that it would be a fairly easy war to win and that using old and outdated war tactics would still garner victory. WWII changed the thinking of most of our top military brass to think outside the box. And when all else fails, you must do whatever it takes, by all means necessary, to win the battle. New military tactics, strategies, and equipment like area bombing, fire bombing, island hoping, and development of newer, stronger tanks needed to be adopted. I'm sure that one could make a case that the United States and her Allies view on how war victory is achieved led the the deaths of many more soldiers than may have been necessary. Arrogance is okay to have, but cockiness will only lead to one's demise. And I feel that it was a cockiness sort of attitude that we and the other allies had at the beginning of the war. Both the Germans and the Japanese quickly taught us that conventional military tactics would not be the way to victory. And it wasn't until the U.S. embraced these new ways to wage war that the tide began to change more in our favor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Blood on Our Hands?" Nicholas D. Kristof

The debate over the decision to use the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has always been a constant debate throughout the years ever since World War II ended. Was it necessary to end the war and save lives? Or was it an atrocity that should have been and always should be consider an inhumane act? Was its use just limited to the war or was it used to show power on a much larger scale out on the field (towards the Russians)? Were the Japanese ready to surrender or were they prepared to fight to the last man on the main island? These are few of the huge amounts of questions that are shown regarding the debate.

The before and after overhead pictures of Hiroshima.

The author of the article I looked at came from the New York Times bearing the title, “Blood on Our Hands?” by Nicholas D. Kristof. In his article he talks about the American perspective becoming negative over the years with the feeling that Japan would have surrendered eventually. The Japanese by the end of the war knew that victory was completely impossible by any means, and therefore it would seem that at some point they would have to give up. Kristof tries to counter this point by bringing up quotes from Japanese officials who participated in the move towards negotiation and surrender before the bombings. Some saying that the bomb was a “gift from heaven”, and that it helped move the Japanese government towards surrender. While on the other side of the table others thought that it would be best if the Japanese held out as long as possible, until either they were provided with a conditional surrender or in the worst case, completely wiped out. The bomb to the people on the idea of surrendering was a direct example of what the alternative of an immediate surrender would be, and that there would not be a heroic battle for the island because they would be blown right off of it. At the end Kristof concludes that although there might have been ways to maybe have prevented to bombing of Nagasaki or shown off the weapon on an uninhabited island, the death of those in both cities would pale in comparison to how many lives would have been lost to an invasion of Japan.

A draw up of Operation Downfall, the plans to invade Japan.

Now with all of these points that have supported both sides of both arguments I feel that the only real conclusion that can be brought to is that there cannot be any real answer for the things we do in times of war. Each decision made can go both ways, but the one chosen should not always be seen as the worst or best choice made. After World War II and to present day, atomic and nuclear weapons are only used as threats and not active weapons in war. Maybe it is possible to not look at the event as a whole but more of who and when. It is known that the development of atomic weapons was taking place in countries through the world, and naturally one of those countries would try and test it in a real conflict. The atomic bomb appeared on the battlefield on the end of a long and tired war, if the bomb was not dropped then when would it have been dropped? Even during the Korean War there were ideas thrown around about the use of these weapons, and thankfully they were not used. At the time of its use the Atomic bomb belonged to the United States and nobody else. If it were to be used later on, when other countries had the capabilities, it would be possible to assume that these weapons could have been used in unimaginable amounts during any of the conflicts that had occurred during the Cold War era. How would a country like China, with a very large population have reacted to a use of an atomic weapon on Northern Korea? (China borders North Korea.) What if the Soviet Union used one of its atomic weapons on one of its satellite states to make an example to those who did not accept Communism at the time? With these thoughts in mind it might be best to put away the argument of “Was it necessary” and think more about “When would have it become necessary?”

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Good War - Timuel Black

Timuel Black is depicted a great man who served his country and was loyal to his community and family in his interview with Terkel. His tone for his depiction of wartime is as always gripping in its detail but he is also satirical in his delivery. Mainly due to the fact that the war for him like many African Americans serving in World War Two wasn't just a war being fought on the fields of France, but it was also being fought along the lines of white and black. War was a struggle for Timuel Black just like every single Negro soldier who served during World War Two.

The fight for equality for Black was seen not only seen in the segregated regiments of the Army but also but the biased tests that the army gave to incoming draftees. As northern educated men such as himself was still put below in rank to his uneducated comrade solely in an effort to suppress what might be a substantial voice. Or how him and his other fellow man were put to being servants and supply carriers when many felt the need to fight and die for their flag.

Black describes the liberation of the Buchenwald prison camp and the storming of the beach at Utah. Describing it with a wit and charm, where most veterans would cringe and shutter at the memory of D-Day. He even describes himself as solemn as he watched his fellow man die and cry for mercy in the face of the big German gun. He described these horrific happenings during wartime, but was still so deeply disturbed by the horrors of American racism, segregation, and bigotry he describes more than once the desire to stay in Europe. He describes the open compassion Europeans showed the African American soldier as not a black man trying to overcome but as a liberator, a hero, and a friend.

This passage really gripped me and showed the split that there is an was in the United States armed forces when it comes to discrimination. Black's commentary on the war is shocking, in some respect. He describes the liberated French man as embracing and embracing his love of jazz music. Something so important in African American culture, can be enjoyed by a man who in France for over 3 years was in the death grip of Nazi control. When your white comrade who fights, bleeds, and dies for the same flag wont even use the same bathroom as you, shows just how un-united the United States really was.

"The Good War"- Don McFadden

Don McFadden was 16 when the war broke out. He was too young to sign up for the war, but the year after, he worked in a foundry, filing castings for airplanes. He felt that he was making a contribution to the war effort. One day, while at work, he was told to collect magnesium dust for chemical analysis. They tried to catch the dust in a paper bag which was tied to a grinding stone. A spark hit the magnesium and McFadden caught on fire. He was burned from the waist up and had third degree burns all over his body.

He spent the year of 1942 in the hospital and he felt that he was a civilian casuality of the war. He took the foundry to court to try to prove negligence but they threw it out of court.

McFadden spoke about the zoot-suit riots. Zoot suit was a style of dress mostly worn by Mexican Americans. He explains a zoot suit riot began with some sailors confrontation with zoot suits. The word was that a sailor had been stabbed and many servicemen gathered and began grabbing anyone with a zoot suit on. McFadden and his brother heard the news on the radio and decided to get involved in the zoot suit riot.

McFadden and his brother wound up in jail because he hit a detective (without knowing it was a detective). The jails were full of Mexicans and they were the only non-Mexicans there. They were in jail, not because they did anything wrong, but because they were victims and the cops were trying to keep them from getting hurt.

A lot of people got hurt. McFadden saw a young man get beat up riding a street car just because he was Mexican. Servicemen would even go into movie theaters, make the projectionist turn off the film, and drag any zoot suiters they saw out of their seats and beat them.

McFadden felt the war pulled the United States out of isolation and pulled us out of the Depression. He said that it was an interesting time to be alive and that the war made him grow up a lot faster.

Precision Bombing Will Win the War

“A panacea was the natural thing for the audience at home to believe in” since they had been led to believe that the war could be won by technology. An example of this would be bombing from costly planes. A pamphlet entitled The Weapon of Ultimate Victory alluded to the fact that the B-17 would win the war because of its precision and safety. This advertisement would not allow one to foreshadow that before the end of the war that “the burnt and twisted bits of almost 22,000 of these Allied bombers would strew the fields” along with almost 110,000 airmen.

Wind, clouds, and turbulence all played factors in throwing the plane off. Also, bombing a target was hard to do even within anti-aircraft range and nothing else to put it off track. Due to the fact that bombing was so inaccurate, the term “precision bombing” became an oxymoron for the flight crews with a sense of black humor.

One unforgettable occurrence of this was on May 10, 1940 when the Luftwaffe accidentally bombed its own civilians. When the French and British heard of this act of violence, the German propagandists made people believe that the bombers hit what they aimed at.

There are many more accidental attacks aided by the B-17’s from the Allied Powers as well. Operation COBRA, an intense bombing mission to aid ground soldiers in France, went horribly wrong due to miscommunication. More American soldiers were killed and wounded than Germans in this two day mishap. These occurrences were so common that “enraged American units…opened fire on their own aircraft, a not uncommon practice among all the armies.” It was after this atrocity that Eisenhower vowed to never again “risk heavy bombing to assist ground attacks.”

It is noted that Hitler once proclaimed, “the loser of the war will be the side that makes the greatest blunders.” And if the outcome of the war was solely based on “precision bombing,” who’s to say that we wouldn’t have made the greater mistakes.

Growing Up: Here and There - John Baker

John Baker was a young boy of seven when the war broke out. He grew up in Ipswich, England, about 40 miles outside London. He recalls what it was like to grow up during war times. Baker remembers charts, entitled “Know Your Enemy,” that showed what German planes looked like. These had to be memorized in case of an attack. During this time there was also a flurry of shelters being built. Anderson shelters were built outside the house in the garden. Baker used his family shelter as a play den. There were also Morrison shelters built within the house incase there was not enough time to get out. Although his parents were scared he said “it was like living in a boy’s adventure story.” Two types of sirens were also developed; one to warn to take cover and another to let them know it was all clear. As a child, Baker remembers his friends and him being upset when the siren went off and nothing happened because they craved for their “adventure,” to have some adventure.

Another event that Baker recalls is his streets being machine-gun attacked by German planes. The planes were so close that no one had time to use their plan recognition skills to identify the enemy that was only about 100 feet above them. Then, to add to his adventure the children collected the spent bullets. Baker talks about this as is if it were a regular occurrence which is shocking to me because if machine guns were going off around me I would not be as calm.

Finally, something that truly added “adventure” to the war Baker was not experiencing was the bombing of Coventry, a town about 30 miles away. One night Baker remembers it being “terribly noisy.” This blitzkrieg attack was “one of the great blitzkrieg attacks of the war.” However, this attack was not considered as close as one might think. “You could bomb one part of town and nothing would be felt on the other end…The scale of terror has changed since then.” And that could not be more true.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Wartime deprivation was a major issue during World War II. For Americans emerging from the Depression assisted by the abundant accidental resources of oil, coal, iron, and other metals, the shortages and deprivations that came about from the war were a shock.

American citizens were first denied rubber. The Japanese seizure of Southeast Asia resulted in no more raw rubber imports. The purchase of tires was prohibited or restricted. Mainly to save tires, gasoline was rationed as of December 1, 1942. An ordinary person could only buy four gallons of gas per week, which was later reduced to three. To save gasoline, the "Victory Speed" was set in place, which created a 35 mile-per-hour national speed limit.

Cars themselves became scarce. Anything made of metal was strictly forbidden. This meant that not only no new cars were being created, but also no bicycles, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, stoves or household appliances, typewriters, and even alarm clocks. The consumer was reminded that even "tin" cans were needed for the bayonets and ammunition for the troops.
Shoes were rationed as of February, 1943 and men's clothing manufactures were forbidden to supply cuffs on trousers or vests with suits. Paper was also in short supply. Tissues and toilet paper were hard to find. Newspapers and magazines looked like they were being published on paper towels.

Food rationing began a month after Pearl Harbor.
Foods such as sugar, chewing gum, preserves, and candy
became scarce at first because troops needed the sugar for
energy. Coffee was rationed in November 1942. Soon after,
butter, cheese, canned goods, and meat required coupons.
By the end of the war, almost all foods were rationed except
fruits and vegetables.

All of the commodities that were scare in the United States were even scarcer in the United Kingdom. In Britain, a man was allowed to buy a new suit every two years and a new shirt every 20 months. Food was especially must harder to come by than in America. Almost all of the food had to be brought in by ship, and most of the ships were sunk by submarines. Rationing began in 1940 and didn't end until nine years after the war, in 1954.
Being deprived of common conveniences was bad enough, but some things were even worse: not having your son or husband, your sister or wife, father or mother or friend close to you and often not hearing any news of them. Americans did not mind giving up these items for the soldiers at war because they felt they were doing their duty for the people risking their lives at war.


To justify killing during wartime, soldiers resorted to the process of dehumanizing and demeaning of the enemy. American soldiers arranged the Axis powers on a scale from the most courageous down to most cowardly and also from the most animalistic to the most humane.

The Japanese were depicted to as brave yet were the most feral creatures. They were stereotyped as small insect like rodents that were able to survive on a handful of rice, roots and grubs. They thought that these feral creatures could see in the dark like animals in the jungle. Many condescending names were given to the Japanese such as Japs, jackals, Chinks, bestial apes, Nips, monkey-men, sub-human, and the yellow Huns of the east.

The Italians were depicted as timid humans that lacked courage. The stereotype was that they were music loving, ice-cream eating well dressed incompetent Wop's. It was said that they took one step forward and two steps back ( London dance step of the time- Tuscana).

The Germans were considered cold, sinister, methodical human beings. The Krauts were depicted as enemies of human decency. Some referred to them as "diseased Germans" because they were not right in their minds.

Magazine's such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and Collier's Magazine ran articles filled with pictorial propaganda of our enemies in order to keep every American family enraged with our enemies.

The Americans hatred of the Japanese escalated after the Bataan Death March and the attack on Pearl Harbor. These events validated American thoughts that these "non-white" Japanese had to be animals. The skulls of Japs were cleaned and kept as trophies, even sent to loved ones as a souvenir. Because they did not consider Japanese as human beings, they felt this practice was as acceptable as hanging the head of hunted game. However, the thought of keeping the skull of an Italian or a German was considered practically sacrilegious.

American Soldiers boiling a skull of a Japanese soldier

The decapitated head of a Japanese soldier

During wartime brutal murder is inevitable, however Americans took it to another level because of their prejudges against non-white human beings.